By Sarah Mac Donald - 16 November, 2013
The Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Seán Brady, has written to the President of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines to express the sympathy of the Catholic community in Ireland with the people of the Philippines.
The Cardinal sent the letter to Archbishop Jose Palma of Manila ahead of a special collection at Masses across Ireland this weekend which will go towards humanitarian relief in both the Philippines and Syria.
Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the central Philippines a week ago leaving 2,300 dead in its wake and displacing millions of others.
The death toll in Syria’s conflict has reached 100,000 with little sign of a cessation in the violence. An estimated 4.25 million people are internally displaced in Syria, while more than 2.1 million have either registered as refugees or are waiting to register in the surrounding region.
To date Trócaire has been able to provide aid to over a quarter of a million people in the region. The Catholic aid agency is supporting Caritas partners in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Syria to deliver emergency aid to people who need it most.
This aid includes the distribution of food, blankets, clothes, medicine and psycho-social support to people who have been forced to abandon their homes, as well as providing education to children who have been forced out of school.
In his letter to Archbishop Palma, Cardinal Brady said the loss of “so many lives, together with the shocking destruction of homes and livelihoods” had touched the hearts of the people in Ireland.
Cardinal Brady continued, “The Philippines is a country close to the hearts of many Irish people, not least through the work of Irish missionary priests, religious, and lay people.”
He also referred to the “large Filipino community in Ireland” which he said had “a special place in our communities and parishes.”
He said the forthcoming 51st International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu was an event that many Irish people looked forward to and prayed for its success.
“At this challenging time in your history, please know that there is much support and goodwill towards you from this country.”
The Primate described the “compassionate and courageous efforts” by so many to assist with the rescue and recovery in the aftermath of the destruction and to reach out towards neighbours who are grieving or in need, as a powerful witness to Christ’s presence, “even in your darkest hour.”
He called on God to grant courage and healing to those who have been injured or traumatised by “these awful events” and explained that prayers have been offered in Catholic schools and parishes throughout Ireland for the people of the Philippines.
Cardinal Brady will offer Mass for the people of the Philippines in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh at 11am on Sunday. The Mass will also be offered for suffering Christians in Syria and in the wider Middle East.
After prayers at his weekly public audience in St Peter’s Square on Wednesday last, Pope Francis renewed his appeal for an end to the tragedy in Syria and he also mentioned the suffering Philippine people.
The Pontiff said “It is with great sadness that I have learnt of the mortar attack two days ago in Damascus in which several children were killed on the way home from school, along with the driver of their bus. Other children were injured. Please, let us pray with all our strength that these tragedies may never again happen!”
He continued, “In these days we are praying and uniting our strength to help our brothers and sisters in the Philippines, struck by the typhoon. These are the real battles that must be fought. For life, never for death!”